Customer is always right, even a bigot

Airtel client seeks and gets 'Hindu' representative

By Our Bureau
  • Published 20.06.18
Source: Shutterstock

New Delhi: The customer is king. He could also be a bigot.

So, how should a company deal with such a customer? Should it bend over backwards and cave in to obnoxious requests or should it have the guts to tell her or him to go to blazes?

Telecom giant Airtel found itself in such a quandary when Pooja Singh - apparently a management professional based in Lucknow - started ranting on a micro-blogging site about Airtel's direct-to-home (DTH) service.

In an angry tweet, she wrote: "I raised a complaint for reinstallation of DTH. But assigned service engineer miss behaved with me. His worlds are ' Tum Phone Rakho Dobara call mt karna'.... This is how Airtel is lootings it's customer."

Airtel's social media team replied with a standard message: "Hey, I most definitely appreciate you reaching out here! We'll take a closer look into that & get back shortly with more information. Thank you, Shoaib."

This message got Pooja's goat - and all her prejudices boiled over in a bilious tweet. "Dear Shohaib, as you're a Muslim and I have no faith in your working ethics... thus requesting you to assign a Hindu representative for my request. Thanks."

Far from ticking the customer off for such a vituperative message, Airtel's team reacted as though nothing had happened: "Hi Pooja! As discussed, please let me know what days & time frames work best for you so we can talk. Further, please share an alternate number so that I can assist you further with this. Thank you, Gaganjot."

A firestorm broke out in Twitter sphere after this exchange, with tweeters slamming Airtel for stomaching such brazen babble from a zealot.

Former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah tweeted: "I refuse to pay another penny to a company that condones such blatant bigotry. I'm beginning the process of porting my number to another service provider & cancelling my DTH & Broadband."

Another tweeter said: "What message are you giving Shoiab and every other Muslim in this country?"

Others took up the refrain.

Jatin Kathuria had a suggestion: "Could you please disconnect her connection? This is the least you can do for your workforce."

The Twitter rage forced Airtel to finally come out in support of its employee. But even then, it came out with a mealy-mouthed response.

"At Airtel, we do not differentiate between customers or our employees/partners on the basis of caste or religion. If a customer contacts us again for an ongoing service issue then the first available service executive responds in the interest of time. We request everyone not to misinterpret and give it unnecessary religious colour. The said customer has been responded to," it said.

It didn't do what Kathuria had suggested: pull the plug on Pooja.